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Actor Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) is describing the spread at Joss Whedon’s legendary “Shakespeare brunches,” semi-regular LA affairs where Whedon convenes his friends—actors and non-actors, writers and directors—to eat and drink and read aloud their way through Shakespeare’s plays.

“We would simply sip mimosas and have a lot of laughs,” Fillion recounted in a phone interview. “And Joss kept saying, ‘I’m going to film one of these,’ and like an idiot I thought he meant film us reading it. But that is not what he meant.”

What Whedon meant was the new movie Much Ado About Nothing, a black-and-white, self-produced affair filmed over 12 days in Whedon’s own home. “This was Joss’ two-week vacation,” Fillion said of the tight filming schedule. “He was filming The Avengers and he had to go back in two weeks and edit The Avengers. This is Joss’ idea of a vacation, shooting a Shakespeare film.”

Much Ado is a snappy, clever play, and quipmaster Whedon is the perfect director to take on the courtship of sharp-tongued Beatrice and equally acerbic Benedick. Whedon’s contemporized Much Ado is full of sexual tension, misunderstandings, and only-in-Shakespeare scheming—the verbal sparring that Shakespeare thought of as “foreplay” hasn’t been this much fun since Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger (RIP) went at it in 10 Things I Hate About You. The whole thing is high spirited, silly, and supremely easy to watch.

I didn’t love Alexis Denisof’s cartoonish portrayal of Benedick, but Amy Acker is fiery and fierce as sharp-tongued Beatrice. And Firefly vet Sean Maher’s performance is a highlight, as the nefarious, scheming Don John. [Read the full interview]

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